In Red Hill Raceway’s return to racing for the first time in nearly 18 years Tuesday night, Tyler Erb made the most of his first DIRTcar Summer Nationals appearance in two seasons, dominating the evening for his fifth career Hell Tour victory.
On paper, the box scores show he led all 30 laps, green-to-checkered. But this was anything but a cakewalk victory for the 25-year-old from New Waverly, TX, as he held off a hungry field of multiple Summer Nationals champions behind him to collect the $5,000 check.
From the outside pole, Erb grabbed the lead on Lap 1 and began a wild chase with Summer Nationals points leader Bobby Pierce around the 3/8-mile. They reached lapped traffic only eight circuits in, creating an interesting obstacle for the leaders to navigate.
“I’d run hard, feel like we got a comfortable lead, and then hit lapped cars immediately – which kinda makes it hairy,” Erb said. “I’d try to wait, wait, then when I’d get to a lapped car, just pass them as fast as I can and not follow them for a lap or two.”
Erb defended through the halfway point with Pierce stalking closely behind him until Lap 16, when Pierce slowed coming out of Turn 4 and spun around; a small flame coming from under the hood. The reigning champion was pushed back to the pits, done for the night, scored in 13th-place.
That opened the door for four-time champion Brian Shirley to stake his claim for the lead, though he was largely unsuccessful. Over the final fourteen laps, Shirley gave Erb a few challenges for the top spot, but ultimately came up just one spot short.
“Randall [Edwards, crew chief] would show me a lead, then he’d close-up, show me a bit of a lead, then close-up,” Erb said. “With five-to-go, I swear I must’ve passed a lapped car or [Shirley] must’ve hit a hole, and he showed me a big lead, and the next lap I came by, he showed me [Shirley] was right on my butt.”
Shirley’s best chance came in the final laps, where Erb got held-up by a big pack of slower cars in multiple lanes right in front of him, slowing his pace enough to allow Shirley to close rapidly. Erb carefully navigated through them and even survived a last-ditch swipe at the lead out of Turn 4 by Shirley to hang on for the win.
“With five to go, the lapped cars were literally four-wide in front of me,” Erb said. “That was probably the sketchiest part of the whole deal. I just didn’t want to get tangled up with them.”
Summer Nationals rookie standout Payton Freeman came from eighth to finish third – a new personal best on the tour. Four-time champion Shannon Babb ran inside the top-five all night and came home fourth, while 2010 champion Jason Feger rounded out the top-five.
The Summer Nationals Late Model action continues Wednesday night at Benton Speedway in Benton, MO – returning for the first time since 1997. If you can’t be at the track, watch every lap live on DIRTVision.
ABBREVIATED RESULTS (view full results)
Feature 30 Laps | 00:16:45.654
- 1-Tyler Erb; 2. 3S-Brian Shirley; 3. F1-Payton Freeman; 4. 18-Shannon Babb; 5. 25-Jason Feger; 6. 15- Christian Hanger; 7. 31AUS-Paul Stubber; 8. 14G-Joe Godsey; 9. 0-Deshawn Gingerich; 10. 30-Mark Voigt; 11. 17-Lee Williams; 12. 23NZ-Mick Quin; 13. 32-Bobby Pierce; 14. 86-Kyle Beard; 15. 15F-Richard Frost; 16. 44X-Devin McLean; 17. 26M-Brent McKinnon; 18. 81J-Jack Riggs; 19. 11K-Shannon Kuhn; 20. 14R-Jeff Roth; 21. 4D-Doug Tye; 22. 21-Billy Moyer Jr; 23. (DNS) 89-Ashton Winger; 24. (DNS) 44-Blaze Burwell